It was a mild November Friday afternoon in Charlotte (NC, USA) when I arrived home from work on my one-gear, $69, rebuilt bicycle. The six-mile trek had no traffic incidents worthy of mention. The time of day was 4:51. After three knocks on the back door, my wife, Monique (Agent 32), let me in to the basement area to park the bike.
“Thanks, mahal,” [love in Tagalog] I said. “You look great in that beige dress. So, where did you want to go tonight for dinner?”
“It’s up to you, bana. [husband in Cebuano] Surprise me!”
“Hey, I’m just kidding,” I said with a grin.
She chuckled. “You really got me, hon!” She then sighed. “I’ll take a Cantina Bowl tomorrow, though.”
“Sure. Say, let’s finally try that vegetarian restaurant on Independence [Boulevard] – the one we pass when we head out to the mountains.”
“Yes, that’s it. Bean Vegan.” Bean vegan … how long?
“Ok, let’s do it!”
Neither of us were currently vegans, but I liked going animal-less several days a week (stopped eating pork and beef decades ago) and Monique loves tofu if it’s cooked to her preferred firmness. Thus, we got in our old Kia hatchback and tootled over to Bean (only four miles – 6.44 km – away). We were in the sparsely occupied parking lot in 11 minutes.
We entered the building that appeared to have once been a Mexican restaurant (the giveaway: widely arched portals). Then we went through another set of doors to arrive at the front desk. We were seated promptly and given menus, which we began to study.
“What were you thinking of eating, dearest asawa?” [wife in Tagalog and Cebuano]
“Oh, maybe a salad,” Monique replied.
“Hey, they have something called the Bean Bowl. It has kale, mushrooms, red beans and rice, plus tofu.”
“Where is that?”
I pointed to it on her menu.
“Oh my, that’s $13, hon.”
“That’s not bad for a Friday night entrée.” Actually, it seems kind of high for greens and beans on the eastside. / I bet they only have two dollars of food in that bowl.
“Ok, I’ll try it. What will you have?”
“I don’t see any soups on the menu, mahal. And, I really don’t want a $10 veggie burger. I’ll just pick some sides.” This place sure is heavy on the burgers. / What’s wrong with him? I bet his stomach is gurgling again.
“The menu is not as expansive as The Laughing Seed in Asheville,” Monique stated. That’s for sure.
“No, it’s not, honey. But, maybe the food is tasty.” I hope.
A sprightly, mid-20-something, blonde-haired, pony-tailed, baseball-capped lass then took our order. She sure is peppy. I wonder if she is on something.
I then studied the inside of the restaurant. Yeah, this was most definitely once a Mexican restaurant. Now, what was it called? My memory chip is quite corrupted now. / What is my dear husband thinking of now? Maybe I’ll find out if he writes up this outing someday.
About five minutes into the wait for our meatless food, two Caucasian females, both appearing 18 to 20 years in age, were seated directly behind me. They were very chatty. I decided to switch on my DAR (digital audio recorder), hoping to pick up something that I could incorporate into a future short story. Maybe we get lucky.
Nearer female diner (four inches – 10 cm – behind my back): “And, how is your life going now?”
Farther female diner (four feet – 122 cm – to my rear): “It’s going ok, I guess, Carol. My part-time job is a breeze. My college courses are no sweat – all A’s. And, my boyfriend is great; in fact, he’s applying for grad school.”
Carol: “So, what in the world is wrong, Faye? What’s with the ‘I guess’? Is the sex not that great?”
Faye: “No, the sex is great. He’s an untamed beast in the bedroom. Tim is really a great guy. You’ll have to meet him, Carol. He cares about me and my feelings so much, and he’s going to be a success; I can tell.”
Carol: “What more could a girl want?”
Faye: “A little drama once in a while.” [She giggles.] Oh brother. So glad that Monique isn’t like this.
Carol: “I know what you mean, sister.”
Faye: “It’s just all too perfect. I need some grit to make the gears grind.” What the fock [sic] did I just hear?!
Carol: “I hear you, girl! Drama is how we grow. It’s how we enlarge our circle. It increases our emotional IQ.” [Intelligence Quotient] Am I really hearing this?
Faye: “Oh, yes; I agree. Who said that?”
Carol: “An author of a book I read recently. Oh, darn! I can’t remember her name. Sorry, Faye. Maybe it will come to me.”
Faye: “Without any drama, you can’t be sure of the relationship’s strength.” So glad that I’m recording this.
Carol: “Oh, yes, Faye; I certainly agree.”
Faye: “Drama is a girl’s litmus test of her man. It’s how we go about gauging where we are – our standing.” I can’t wait to play this back for Monique later. I wonder what her take will be. I think I already know.
Carol: “Well, don’t whip up too much drama, Faye. You don’t want to run a good one off.”
Faye: “Carol, if he blew up and left, would that mean that it wasn’t meant to be, you know, long term?” Let me vomit. Glad the food hasn’t arrived yet.
Carol: “Could be. I will find that book and let you know what the author said about that.”
Faye: “Thanks, Carol. It’s great seeing you again. Glad that you could make it down to Charlotte to see me tonight.”
Carol: “Absolutely, my BFF. [Best Friend Forever] Ok, what will we be having tonight?”
I then switched my DAR off, as I already had more than enough dialogue. Also, their conversation was leaving the drama theme for the cuisine theme, of which I had no interest.
Our food came less than a minute later. The red beans were cooked perfectly; they were quite delicious. The kale was crisp and refreshingly drama-free. We devoured the spread. I wonder if Monique heard any of that ‘drama conversation’ behind me. Well, if she didn’t, she’ll hear the playback soon enough.
“Hon, taste one of these portobello mushrooms. They are sarap!” [Tagalog for deliciously zesty]
I stabbed one with my fork and pulled it off in my mouth with my front teeth. It was indeed very tasty. “Good stuff! A fresh ‘shroom.” [mushroom] And, they cooked it perfectly.”
Later, back at our humble abode, I replayed the two female diners’ drama conversation for Monique in our little sala (living room in Spanish, Tagalog and Cebuano) as she often calls it. She listened to the whole recording without interruption. At the end, I looked into her pretty brown pinay (Filipina) eyes.
“Well, hon, you are most certainly a female. So, what is your take on that dramatic conversation? Be honest.”
“Immaturity,” she stated sans hesitation. I love this woman.
“I’m so glad that I married you, Monique.”
“So, let me guess, hon – another short story?”
“You got it! I’m thinking of writing another short story with that recorded conversation being the crux of it.” I knew it.
“Do you really think that that three-minute recording on the topic of drama is enough for a short story?” That that.
“Yes, most astoundingly prescient Agent 32.” Agent 32? Hmmm …
“Well, make sure that you change their names. We can’t afford a lawsuit.”
“I will, and I know, honey.”
“You wouldn’t be recording our conversation right now, would you, Parkaar?” [my ailing alias]